NC JUSTICE NEWS: Toxic Tax Changes in Final Budget + House Bill is Hostile to Immigrants, Jobless + Catastrophe Child Care Costs

October 6, 2015

FINAL BUDGET: Tax changes limit NC's ability to support public investments

Tax changes made in the new state budget will limit North Carolina’s ability to support public investments that promote shared economic prosperity—things like quality schools, affordable healthcare and housing, and safe neighborhoods. At a critical time in our state's uneven and slow economic recovery, policymakers chose a path that delivers greater tax benefits to the wealthy and puts these investments at risk.

The latest Budget & Tax Center report provides an overview of the final budget and breaks down the numbers, which speak for themselves. Tax cuts will reduce available revenue for the biennium by $841.8 million. Within four years, the annual cost of the tax changes will balloon to more than $1 billion each year, due to the phase in of tax rate reductions for individual taxpayers and profitable corporations. The state simply won't be able to adequately support investments in public education, economic development, and the court system.

Legislation that passed out of the Senate this session — and certainly alive through next year — should also be concern of all North Carolinians. If constitutional changes like those in North Carolina's TABOR (Senate Bill 607) become law, rather than just two years of cuts to public services and budget gimmicks under the new budget, North Carolinians would be saddled with a low-investment approach forever. This legislation would set into the Constitution a flawed formula for determining year-over-year spending targets. Instead of future policymakers being able to pursue ways to make North Carolina a better place to live and do business, the budget process would be put on autopilot.

Because of this year's budget, North Carolinians have to face yet another year of missed opportunities for our state to rebuild. The time has come to say "enough is enough," starting with documenting the harm of shortchanging our public systems in the months to come, and educating our neighbors about how the TABOR proposal would set North Carolina on an even worse path.

HOSTILE HOUSE BILL 318: Legislation sends signal of hostility to many

Last week, the North Carolina Justice Center called on Gov. Pat McCrory to veto a bill that “sent a signal of hostility to immigrants and those struggling to find employment.”

House Bill 318 would be an incredibly damaging policy change. Passed last week, this harmful legislation would undermine local government authority and restrict the powers of the state's Executive branch as well. Among the bill's most troubling provisions: restrictions on how local governments address their own needs when it comes to immigrant communities; and restrictive limits on jobless workers' ability to receive food aid during times of economic downturn or in parts of North Carolina that face persistent labor market distress.

At a time when it is increasingly clear that immigrant communities provide important entrepreneurial contributions to main streets, support regional resiliency, and work at many vital occupations across the state, the decision to limit the ability of local governments to introduce common sense measures that support immigrant integration is counterproductive.  

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, the program formerly known as food stamps, is designed to help ensure people have access to food in time of need. Though there are time limits on how long childless adults can receive SNAP, current federal law permits the Governor to waive these limits when economic conditions do not provide employment opportunities, a condition that allows 77 counties to qualify for the waiver today. If Gov. McCrory does not veto this bill, HB 318 would permanently prevent the Executive branch from  waiving these time limits during an economic recession, or for counties facing dramatic job losses. Jobless workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own would be unable to receive essential food aid for their families.

HIGH COST OF CHILD CARE: Costs exceed college tuition in NC, much of US

As families increasingly rely on both parents working to make ends meet, child care more important than ever for promoting healthy children. Yet costs are skyrocketing, placing this important service out of reach for many families.

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute, High Quality Child Care Is Out of Reach for Working Families, breaks down the high cost of child care throughout the country and identifies the difficulties families have in meeting these costs. Shockingly, annual child care costs for a 4-year-old exceed the average cost of in-state tuition at public 4-year institutions in 24 states and the District of Columbia. In North Carolina, a year of child care for a four-year-old costs 16 percent more than a year of tuition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The fact that child care is a bigger expense than even in-state tuition at a 4-year public college should come as no surprise to North Carolina’s families, who have seen deep cuts to state funding for child care and other early childhood programs. The state’s investment in early childhood programs has remained stagnant despite the economic recovery.

The rising cost of child care is especially challenging for low-wage and minimum wage workers. To meet the demands of infant care costs for a year, a minimum-wage worker would have to devote his or her entire earnings from working full time from January until September. In fact, child care costs exceed 30 percent of a minimum wage worker’s earnings in every state.

MONEY IN POLITICS: Forum on how big money, civil rights are connected

The basic promise of American democracy — political equality for all — faces its newest threat from the dominance of big money interests in our elections.  Like the poll tax of the past, today’s campaign finance system operates as a barrier to equal and meaningful participation in the political process. Money in politics is a civil rights issue, and it is time to have a conversation about it.

On Thursday, October 15, Democracy North Carolina, Free Speech For People, The Institute For Southern Studies, North Carolina Voters For Clean Elections, and the American Constitution Society law student chapters at Duke Law School, NCCU School of Law, and UNC School of Law will hold a special forum to address the question of money in politics from a civil rights perspective. We invite you to attend a special forum entitled “Money In Politics as a Civil Rights Issue,” hosted at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Speakers at the forum include: Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, Professor Guy-Uriel Charles of Duke Law School, Chris Kromm, Executive Director of the Institute for Southern Studies and North Carolina State Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr.
This conversation will be moderated by Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina.

Please join us for this special event on Thursday evening, October 15, from 6:30-8:30 pm. Your RSVP is requested, but not required. Additional information on this forum is available here.

TALKING MEDICAID: Join HAC for Ahoskie community event

As the Affordable Care Act is being implemented in our state, North Carolina lawmakers have blocked the Medicaid program from being expanded. This means that 500,000 working adults will remain uninsured in 2015.

Join the NC Justice Center's Health Access Coalition for an upcoming conversation event to discuss:

  • the benefits of the Affordable Care Act
  • how Medicaid expansion would help your community
  • the online marketplace for purchasing insurance and eligibility for tax credits for individuals and small businesses, including Special Enrollment Period

Join HAC on Monday, October 19, in Ahoskie for a health care supper at the Roanoke-Chowan Community College Community Room, 109 Community College Road in Ahoskie. Supper will be held at 5:30, followed by the meeting from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Call or email today to reserve a place for you and a friend: Nicole Dozier at nicole@ncjustice.org or (919) 856-2146.

FILM SCREENING: Join RESULTS for screening, discussion on poverty in US

Join RESULTS, hosted by the NC Justice Center, for a free film screening and discussion on Thursday, October 15 to learn more about poverty in North Carolina and across the United States.

RESULTS is looking to start a volunteer RESULTS chapter in North Carolina to fight U.S. poverty. This event will give more information on how to get involved and become an effective advocate.

The event will be held at the NC Justice Center from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 15, at 224 S. Dawson St. in downtown Raleigh. You MUST RSVP to attend as space is limited. RSVP at this link.

RESULTS is a national movement of passionate, committed everyday people, using their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. Visit RESULTS.org for more information.

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